It is a secret many of us have known for years and one that many new anglers have discovered since taking up fishing this season, often as a direct result of the pandemic. Whether it was searching for an outdoor activity, looking to spend more quality time with family, having a lot more time on their hands due to not being able to do the things they would normally be doing, or being out of work due to Covid-19, fishing has proven to be a popular way to use free time.
Not only has fishing helped fill that void with a healthy outdoor activity, but many of these new anglers have discovered that the benefits of fishing extend far beyond simply catching fish. I have been coming in contact with a lot of people who are describing how calming and therapeutic their fishing experience has been, and that includes many first responders – nurses, doctors, hospital workers, teachers and police officers. Fishing has become their escape form the stress of their job, the turmoil occurring across the country, health concerns and whatever other burdens they might have.
The one common denominator among the vast majority of these folks has been not just fishing, but surf fishing. While fishing from a boat can also provide these benefits under the right conditions and circumstances, it is easy to see why the surf is so well suited to making people feel at ease. First of all, you fit better into your natural surroundings. Standing in the surf in rhythm with the waves, surrounded by open space and the sounds of gulls and terns, and the time to think clearly, all help to put life into perspective. The phrases I hear most often, not only from this new generation of Covid anglers, but from those who have been fishing most of their lifetime, is “When I’m fishing I feel like I don’t have a care in the world,” or “I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.”
While I have done my share of boat fishing, even guiding and running light tackle charters, there are stresses that come with boat fishing that don’t exist with surf fishing. It is a much simpler approach to the game and affordable for everyone, but if catching fish, especially a lot of them is your primary goal, then a boat is probably a better choice. Before you go selling your boat, I have experienced similar benefits to those generated by the surf while probing back-bay marshes and shorelines for stripers in a small boat, or poling a shallow flat on a windless morning as a virtual aquarium of marine life unfolds before you. So, to be clear, surf fishing is not the only type of fishing that exudes such therapeutic benefits, but it is the easiest to access and certainly the least expensive.
These benefits are probably why I have never minded fishing alone. There is something to be said for the solitude that can come from fishing a calm backside shoreline under a starlit sky and listening for the sound of feeding fish while the stresses of daily life melt away. One of my favorite quotes, courtesy of our 31st president, Herbert Hoover, “To be fishing is to cleanse the soul.” There’s a man who knew what he was talking about.